Complete Disengagement – But Why?

Here’s the thing – you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been completely silent for a while. I’ve been silent on the forums, this blog, and I honestly haven’t signed into WoW for about 3 months outside of here or there for a few minutes.

Why? Because I’m almost completely disengaged from the game. I always have a period of downtime between expansions, but with Mists it’s been pretty severe. An entirely new content patch was released and I still haven’t really signed on to take part in it.

In the meantime I’ve been playing other games. Animal Crossing, free to play MMOs, and I’ve especially delved into Final Fantasy XIV.

Throughout it all I’ve thought back to WoW and all I can wonder is why? Why did I lose interest so quickly? Mists of Pandaria was, arguably, one of the best expansions in terms of mechanics improvements. It had great, regularly updated content. Pet battles, farming, LFR improvements and now flex raiding…but why don’t I care anymore?

The argument can be made that I’ve grown out of the game, which is entirely possible. But I’ve been playing pokemon games with the exact same mechanics since I was a kid. I love Blizzard games. It’s why I’m going to blizzcon. So I can understand growing out of it to a point where I still log in to chat with guildmates, etc. but I’ve gone from semi-interest to “I’d rather go wash some dishes instead.” I still love talking about WoW on twitter…but why don’t I like playing it?

I’ve wracked my brain lately trying to figure out what about Mists was making me so disinterested. Now that I’ve thought on it, I have all these colorful swirls of half-created ideas and reasons floating around in my brain, and I’m going to try to put them to paper to explain my feelings.

Even though I was bored with Cata mechanics-wise, I was still very engaged in the storyline up until Thrall took over at the end. The world was literally about to end in a flash of fiery old God magic. Yeah, I was sick of my 85 sitting there with nothing to do, but I was hooked up until the very end of the expansion on just the storyline itself.

Fandral betrayed me, so I stuck around to see him die in Firelands. Deathwing was an omnipresent threat, and the heroic dungeons that accompanied dragon soul really pushed that home. There was such rich storyline everywhere I looked. Is that what kept me playing? I’m starting to think so.

Mists of Pandaria did not have a bad storyline. It had amazing writing and art associated with it. Here’s where things start to get murky in my explanation, because these thoughts are still all jumbled and muddied together.

We, as players, knew from the outset of the expansion that we were essentially going into Pandaria – a completely unspoiled land – to cause complete and utter chaos. From the very start I was uncomfortable with that key plotline. I want to be heroic, I don’t want to help unleash a Sha that destroys a decade’s worth of work for Yu’lon’s reincarnation. I don’t want to be a driving force behind Pandaren from the Wandering Isle turning their backs on their own people. That feels…gross. I can attest that throughout the questing in Pandaria, save for a few areas like the Dread Wastes, that I kept completing quests and kind of side-eying my computer at the resolutions I was given.

“Oh um…defeated this enemy, I guess…but the entire village was destroyed in the process and lots of people died…”

WoWface

(True story I made this exact face at least 50 times throughout my time playing MoP.)

We’ve gone to Draenor to defeat the remnants of the legion. We went into Northrend to battle the undead scourge and plague. We defended Azeroth from an aspect drunk on corrupted power. And now we went into an absolutely beautiful uncharted land to…despoil it.

And we did. We despoiled the heck out of Pandaria.

The other major draw to the Mists expansion was the Pandaren themselves. A race of gentle, balanced folk who treasure ideals of family, unity, and peace. They were pretty awesome but…and I feel bad saying this…a little boring.

I read the book about Vol’jin. It tried to hammer home the point of Taran Zhu and the Pandaren being a serene, balanced race so hard that I struggled to get through certain parts of the book. We get it. They’re awesome, ascended people who can fight with the grace of a lotus flower. Taran Zhu can kick a Zandalari troll’s head off without a single piece of fur being out of place. Chen is super lovable and haughty and knows how to throw some punches! Haha woo! He also makes good beer! Did I mention beer? BEER BEER BEER BEER BEER. There’s a whole lotta beer cause Pandaren loooove beer!

That’s not a bad thing, but it gets very repetitive and monotonous when it’s all you get for a 2 year expansion period.

When you look at the key characters that came from the Pandaren race you get people like -

Taran Zhu: It seemed like the overwhelming consensus among my friends was that we all strongly disliked Taran Zhu. The guy was a smug, self-superior xenophobe that was ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE. The really crappy thing is that he was completely xenophobic from the outset and WE PROVED HIM RIGHT. He never had his, “I was so wrong.” epiphany moment because we went in with every single faction stereotype blazing and lived up to all his negative expectations. Cool beans. No character growth there, no satisfaction, just a bland annoying character.

Chen Stormstout: It’s hard to find negatives about this guy because it seems like he was purposely written not to have any. That should say it all.

Emperor Shao Hao: We got to see his transformation into the full embodiment of Pandaren ideals. He banished all of his negative emotions except pride, and hoped that his legacy would live on in the Pandaren people. It did. If there’s one thing Mists of Pandaria hammered home to me, it was a complete lack of emotion on the side of the Pandaren.

Maybe lack of emotion isn’t the right way to describe it. One of the short stories – “The Blank Scroll” features a lorekeeper that perfectly embodies all the Pandaren ideals. She’s stoic, almost all-knowing, and exists solely to guide the other characters in the story to an inevitable conclusion and lesson.

And THAT is what Pandaria itself, and all the Pandaren are. They were a storyline that exists to lead the alliance and horde, and your own character, to a certain storyline conclusion. And that is one of the problems. That’s about as “on rails” in terms of a game/story that you can get.

The mogu and the klaxxi are absolutely fascinating in concept. In execution it was fairly lacking. The mogu got the, “We are the generic bad guys in this expansion. We exist to fill out your daily quests and an eventual raid.” and the buck kind of stopped there. Lots of little tastes of Titan and Old God lore throughout both the Mogu and Klaxxi stories, but not enough to really let us sink out teeth into it. Why were the Zandalari even there? It’s sort of explained in the book, but not to a satisfying end. They’re there for a daily hub and to fill the first wing of Throne of Thunder, I guess.

I was more interested in the story behind the Twin Consorts or the implications of it than I was in the burdens of Shao Hao.

Wrathion was a shining star in this expansion, so it wasn’t all negative. The guy is an incredibly interesting character, and I can’t wait to see how he handles future challenges.

Another huge problem is that we went into this expansion from the start knowing that Garrosh was probably going to be the big bad. That’s like being handed a book by someone who goes, “Oh by the way, the main character dies at the end.”

At that point, how you get there starts mattering less. We didn’t lose a single major lore character to death this expansion. That could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. There wasn’t as much investment from me because I knew Garrosh was going to be set up as the evil big bad, I knew the alliance and horde weren’t going anywhere, and I knew that any major sense of loss would be handled by sacrificing Pandaria itself instead of losing Anduin or something like that. I knew this as I started leveling my first character to 90. And that was when the Sha of boredom first crept into and took root in my brain.

In a lot of ways, I think the overwhelming amount of spoilers and datamining has destroyed a lot of the magic behind WoW. There are sites and resources dedicated to spilling out as much info as quickly as possible before patches even make it to the PTR. Can these spoilers be avoided? I am honestly going to say that at this point, no, they can’t be. I had a friend on twitter who was desperately trying to avoid being spoiled on the warchief reveal when Garrosh was killed, and she was accidentally spoiled within 2 hours. It only got worse after a few days as more and more people discussed every semblance of the plot from all possible angles.

As players, we’ve caused this problem. We’re our own worst enemy. We strive to be so well prepared and are just so curious about the game, that we remove a lot of the magic behind it by discussing changes/lore plotlines ad infinitum before they’re even in the game. I honestly think this is why Blizzard has started leaning so heavily on the book franchise. It’s a lot harder for book spoilers to be leaked to MMO champion since you cannot datamine a kindle.

Part of why I enjoyed FFXIV was because I picked it up at early release without having played the beta or looking any of it up. It was all new, it was all magical. I can’t expect that from WoW anymore, obviously, but it might be nice if maybe, as players, we can have enough respect for one another that we don’t immediately dish out every new plotline the instant it’s posted to MMO champion.

This also goes for Blizzard. You can set up an expansion without giving away the ending. I absolutely want the lore and quest devs to be involved and answer lore related questions, but going into MoP the way they did was a mistake. We knew at the last Blizzcon about Garrosh. The element of surprise was completely gone, and with it – so was some of the magic of the game.

I don’t know. Like I’ve been saying, it’s really hard to put these thoughts to words. I think I’ve rambled on enough for now. I hope some of what I said made sense. And I truly hope that at some point in the future, the game will captivate me again the way it has for the last 9 years.

Mists of Pandaria Wishlist

As we reach the midpoint of the expansion, there are some interesting changes on the horizon. 5.3 is already in the works and has a lot of quality of life changes. After that should be the Orgrimmar raid patch. On top of all of this, the game changing feature that Ghostcrawler had mentioned a while ago still hasn’t been announced. I’m wondering if the latest changes to allow certain scenarios cross faction are a hint at what is to come.

Speculation aside, there are a few loose ends that I’m hoping they tie up before the expansion ends. These are generally minor plot related things, so I’m hoping they don’t get swept by the wayside as bigger content, like the overthrowing of Garrosh, take center stage. Anywho, here’s my wishlist!

1) Resolution to Chen Stormstout’s family reunion

If you quest through dread wastes you get to see Chen finding out what happened to his family, or what is left of them. The ending of Stormstout Brewery also leaves what happens with Uncle Gao fairly ambiguous….peppers! What a lot of people may not know is that if you get your rep with the tiller Ella up, she sends you on a quest to have Chen try one of her brews. He ends up enjoying it so much he invites her to come live in the brewery and join the Stormstouts. This is especially touching because both of Ella’s parents had passed away.

So! I want to see what happens! I want some REAL resolution for Chen and his family! I have no doubt he’ll be appearing in future patches to help with the siege but considering the situation with the brewery and the ambiguous ending for some of his family (the guy in Amber is clearly still alive!) it would be great to have a final questline to see his full dreams realized and his family reunited.

2) Let’s have a wedding!

Throughout the tillers questlines and raising the friendship rep, it’s clear that a couple of the tillers ladies start to develop small crushes on ol’Yoonie. It would be great if there were a questline to culminate the friendship storyline and help one of the pandaren women and Yoon find true love.

The entire Tillers questline was eerily reminiscent of the Harvest Moon games. One of the biggest parts of that series was finding a wife/husband to woo. So it’d be nice if you could speak with one of the tillers ladies at max friendship and find out that she has a big’ol crush on farmer Yoon. Then, following some more questlines to help them talk to each other more, start planning and gathering items for a wedding in Halfhill!

3) Continue the farming traditions.

We’re not going to be staying in Pandaria forever. As the next expansion launches, I wonder just how many people will still venture to another continent to use their farms. It would be great if there were an expansion ending quest from the tillers where they invite you to continue their farming traditions in other lands as an official representative.

This opens up the possibility of giving players a run down, empty area of land on whatever new planet *coughArgus* we end up at and working hard to build it into a new farm. So say you find this patch of relatively safe land. You start clearing the rocks, gathering materials, and building a small farmhouse. It still follows the original farming theme but allows more customization. As for seeds? Surely there could be a questline to broker with the area’s population to gain access to new planting materials.

I LOVED the addition of farming in MoP. I would like to see it become a feature of the game itself rather than just an expansion.

4) A pet battle daily hub.

I discussed this in an earlier post but as people move out of Pandaria it would be super to have an area in Azeroth that featured a pet battle daily hub. Putting it in Azeroth would also allow for lower level alts to complete the dailies as well.

5) A Klaxxi pet.

Okay, maybe not a Klaxxi since they’re sentient humanoids. (Even  though we get the hopling, sporeling sprout, etc.) but maybe our big Kunchong buddy from the daily quests could leave us a baby kunchong pet as a thank you gift for essentially saving the Mantid race from extinction.

6) Make Taran Zhu shut up.

This one is pretty self explanatory. Seriously, make the guy shut up. I’m tired of his smarmy lectures all the time. One of the biggest positives to MoP ending will be not having to see this guy anymore.

7) No Med’an ever.

Please, please, PLEASE do not ever put this kid in the game. PLEASE.

8) If they’re going to bring Illidan back to life, bring Aegwynn back too.

Seriously. If the limits of death do not matter in the Warcraft universe then pleasing the playerbase by bringing Aegwynn back should be a trifle. Aegwynn died so that Med’an could live on as a terrible character and that’s a damned shame.

9) Bring the Lorewalkers to the main continents.

Given Cho’s thirst for knowledge and love of spreading history, I fail to see why he wouldn’t open up a branch of the lorewalkers on the other continents and even invite other races to be founding members. Think about all the great lore areas in EK, Kalimdor, and Northrend there are. This would be especially cool if they added small lore items that played the cinematic movies from the original warcraft games.

A lot of newer players are not sure where to start when it comes to the history of the game. Solution to this? Put the game’s history IN THE GAME for them to find. A tossed aside crown item inside the throne room of Lordaeron that, when clicked on, plays the cinematic of when Arthas returned would just be amazing.

10) A FREAKIN’ CORGI PET COME ON NOW WHY IS THIS NOT IN GAME YET?

PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE KNOWS I WANT ONE IN GAME SO I’M STARTING TO TAKE IT AS A PERSONAL INSULT THAT THERE’S NOT ONE AVAILABLE YET.

Whew! So that’s my wishlist! What would you all like to see?

The Issue with Alliance Lore

Okay, before I get into this I want to preface – I do NOT believe there are any intrinsic biases against the alliance in this game. I do NOT believe in horde favoritism. However, I do believe there is a difference in the types of lore both sides get that contributes to an overall lacking feeling of depth of the allianceside questing. This is strongly opinion based, and people are sure to feel differently than I do but please do not take this as me attacking either side.

ANYWHOZZLE. I’ve been taking a vacation from my alliance main and have spent some time in Pandaria on my troll druid. I’ve leveled several characters allianceside through Pandaland and I used to consider myself a player of both sides, but I hadn’t quested enough to back this up in the recent expansion. There is so much that goes on between both sides during the questing experience and you never get the full story unless you do everything. This was especially true of the new cataclysm lowbie leveling quests.

Certain areas of Pandaria are largely the same regardless of the faction you play. But other zones, specifically Jade Forest and Krasarang, are strikingly different both in tone and content. The quests are mostly the same (“I want you to kill 10 mogu”) but the overall tone is vastly different.

I’ve had an issue with alliance lore that I couldn’t quite put my finger on for the longest time. It was as I was questing through Jade Forest on my horde alt that my grievances began to take shape. What was previously intangible to me started fading into view until finally I had it – a fleshed out gripe about my alliance lore issues. I was consulting with a friend of mine at the time and worked out these issues as I was talking to her. (Yes, Bells, it was you!)

When I think of the horde I think of passion, strength, fervor, and character depth. This is the faction that brings such great characters as Sylvanas, Baine, and Vol’jin. When I think of the alliance I think of honor, compassion, pride, and unity. One this side we have people like Jaina, Tyrande, and Magni Bronzebeard.

Now here’s the thing – both sides have done terrible things in their past. There’s absolutely no doubt about it. For all the sanctimonious preaching of the alliance – there is a dark history lurking there. But here’s the difference between the two factions – the horde acknowledges their moral grey area and runs with it. The alliance does not. The alliance does absolutely everything it can to appear as the justified, morally righteous cause in an otherwise war-torn world. Honor above all!

And there, my friends, is the issue. Honor is fascinating for a while but um, being the good guy all the time? It’s boring. It’s really, really, REALLY boring. People tend to wonder why the horde faction leaders get more in depth storylines?

For example, Vol’jin – the guy has always had a morally grey compass. He does what he feels is best for his people and isn’t afraid to tell someone to expect a dagger in their back. Sometimes he doesn’t even warn them. Another example is Baine – who is the most noble of the horde leaders but rightly encourages the slaughter of the Grimtotem.

Now let’s compare this to an alliance faction leader like, oh, say, Velen? Remember that guy? He’s the draenei prophet that sits on his butt in the Exodar all day. They have built Velen in such a way (even to the point of retconning previous lore) that he is a pinnacle of all that is good and pure in the world. He’s so good and in with the light that he and his people are the most ambiguous when it comes to open hostilities with the horde. They fight, to be sure, but it’s been made clear that it’s not their battle and rather one of the alliance they made when the night elves saved them.

So they have built Velen to be this champion of righteousness and good. And because of that – they can’t do ANYTHING with him except trot him out every now and then to give nebulous “prophecies” during the gatherings of the alliance leaders. His horde counterpart would likely be Lor’themar Theron – leader of the blood elves. A leader who has had to fight off the legacy Kael’thas left for his embattled people and is now taking center stage in the alliance/horde conflicts in Pandaria.

Velen just sits in the Exodar forever. Because he’s a force for good. He CAN’T be used in a way that would tarnish that reputation. Who else has had this treatment? Starts with an “M” ends with an owlbearcat outfit. Yep, Malfurion. Now he’s a force for neutral good, so he’s off the map as well.

This is the essence of the alliance. They are the faction force for good. Because of this, there is rarely a moral grey area for them to engage in during their storylines. The quests in Jade Forest force feed you the narrative that the alliance is in Pandaria for the greater good. We’re there to stop the horde. The horde is evil and enslaving Pandaren children! THEY’RE JUST SO DAMNED EVIL, AND YOU’RE JUST SO DAMNED GOOD YOU GOOD DO-GOODER GUY! You should feel great for being such a good person!

Meanwhile during the horde quests you are actively engaged in the faction war. It makes no qualms implying that the horde will wipe out the alliance and is willing to use any means, Pandarian locals included, necessary. A couple of the horde scouting party actively express their dislike of the Hozen but claim they are tools for the horde war machine. That right there? That’s messed up. But it makes for a hella good story and character development.

Meanwhile the alliance encounter the Jinyu and something something saving a race from being wiped out by the hozen. Yes, that’s the storyline for your character. Your character has appeared with the alliance in the nick of time to save these fish people who are otherwise going to be purged by the hozen. Conveniently, the hozen are also allied with the horde so it serves both purposes. You get to save a people AND staunch the horde war effort in Pandaria! You get to fight a bloody battle and still feel sanctimonious about it, yippee!

There was a big hullaballoo when the alliance Jade Forest starting area was revamped because at one point a swarm of fleeing, drowning orcs is shot to death by the Lady alliance general. People on both factions flipped. their. shit over it. “The alliance doesn’t do things like this!” Even General Rell comments that, “It isn’t right. This isn’t the alliance’s way.” Well, for pete’s sakes, it’s WAR! And you are BORING!

And maybe if they did things like that more often, the storyline would be more engaging. The jade forest alliance questline is a snooze up to and including the part where Lorewalker Cho makes you do his daily chores so that you can find Prince Anduin. (By the by, hordeside you get to do a quest where you actually CAPTURE Anduin. But no such allianceside rescue mission to get him back. Cool.) In my humble opinion, Cho seems to connect more deeply with horde players. Exploring the linage of their races and making many comments along the lines of, “We have a lot in common.” Meanwhile the alliance feeds his birds and gets a karate kid meditation lesson.

Hordeside there is an alliance fortification and several bases that must be secured and destroyed. There is a camp with overworked Pandarian laborers but the alliance is so evil that they’re keeping the laborers there by uh…umm. Nothing. They aren’t keeping the laborers there. And when you free them, all they do is complain about being tired or hungry. Well gosh gee willickers, how frightfully rude!

Meanwhile allianceside the horde fortification is a nest of orc and undead warlocks. Said warlocks have enslaved Pandaren Children using demonic magic. Not even adults and children, just the children. .So children are enslaved helping fortify an area teeming with demons and sha corruption. That’s uh, that’s pretty darned mean right there. Are you starting to see the difference yet?

If you’re horde in that scenario you’re going in to kill alliance with the afterthought of helping the Pandaren. If you’re alliance you’re going in because DAMN the horde is evil and you’re just so GOOD to be saving those children!! GOOD FOR YOU, PAL! Pats on the back all around!

This air of sanctimonious crap infiltrates almost every aspect of alliance questing, right down to daily quests in operation shieldwall. Oh yeah, we’re there to stop the goblins and orcs from polluting the area and killing off the wildlife. It also, ONCE AGAIN, conveniently helps the war cause. The war is a convenient afterthought instead of the main focus because I guess they don’t want us to feel like we’re being too mean or maybe for once not doing something for the greater good.

Instead of a scenario like Dagger in the Dark we end up with a Little Patience which is basically a 20 minute exercise to show alliance players that, relax, our High King is pretty smart and even tempered. So there’s no air of worry here because we’re in good, patient, strong hands. Oh and some orcs die too, I guess. The best character in that scenario is Tyrande, and that is a stretch.

The horde can see a little taste of this by being exposed to Anduin throughout their questing, as well. The kid is just so naive and dumb. He should have been killed at least 8 times during his stay in Pandaria, up to and including the point where he was captured initially by the horde. Anduin, in a way, is representative of the entire alliance. His chance at being an interesting, engaging character was robbed from him for the sake of the greater good. He NEEDS to be practically neutral to both sides because he’s the prince of stormwind and has a higher calling. Meanwhile: Zzzzzzzz.

It’s funny, because Wrathion is another neutral character and yet he is heads and tails more interesting than Anduin. Tortured backstory, doesn’t make qualms about who he is. Compare the two characters and consider which one would make for a more interesting character in a novel. Which one, if you were in Azeroth, would you want to spend more time with?

Now, Krasarang is the other major area that has vastly differing storylines between the alliance and horde. Hordeside you get the awesomeness of Sunwalker Dezco and his plight as his wife and best friend pass away in a strange land.

Allianceside you get some doddering old Night elf looking for the fountain of youth and his patient, but fierce, daughter who leads a team of sentinels. His daughter, the more interesting of the two, spends half the time in a coma and awakens in time to die at the same time as Kor. At this point the old night elf decides to sacrifice himself for his daughter. Abloobloobloo. Except – there’s no real feeling of attachment to the characters.

The old fart was a selfish git who wanted to renew his immortality and lost his daughter in the process. And instead of DEALING WITH THESE ISSUES he sacrifices himself so she can come back to life. Everything gets wrapped up with a neat little bow because the smarter of the two, his daughter, gets to come back to life. No real consequences except the loss of some old guy you probably didn’t care much about anyway, seeing as he was more concerned about sending you to find the waters of youth while his daughter languished in a coma. Again, don’t worry about heartbreak or tough issues, alliance, because you came out for the greater good once again!

Meanwhile Dezco loses his wife and best friend in the same damned day. Yet he presses on, and so does your horde character. You muse about the unfairness of it all but marvel at his strength as he totes his two newborns further through the mysterious new land of Pandaria. He also names one after you and that is pretty rad. There is no super happy morally good resolution. And that’s the way it should be.

So I have to ask – alliance, why are you afraid of powerful, but uncomfortable, lore developments? Why does EVERYTHING have to be for the greater good? Why do we have to feel great about everything we do? WHY? It’s BORING!

They tried something new with Jaina and completely flipped her on her alliance-do-gooder head. Once again, people lost their shit. Even the bombing of her home wasn’t enough to justify her actions in Dalaran, apparently? Are you kidding? Come on people. If you want good lore allianceside, you need to start accepting these difficult moral situations.

I am absolutely tired of do-gooder sanctimonious and paper thin alliance lore. Tired of it. The few instances where the alliance does something morally ambiguous and grey are situations where they use a dummy character like John Keeshan so that you get the feel of a cool battle without all the negativity of a non-joke alliance character getting involved. You won’t catch Varian Wrynn wiping out a settlement like Sylvanas did to Southshore or Garrosh did to Theramore. Nope, nope. He’s too good of a person. He’d never resort to that. And because of that, he leaves no lasting effect on the plot.

I love the alliance and a lot of what it stands for. I love a lot of the alliance characters as well but I cannot ignore how I feel about this anymore. Now that I’ve pinpointed my major issue it’s hard for me to look at the alliance the same way I used to. My main will always stay alliance, but I won’t lie and say I’m not enjoying my horde characters a metric ton more. It just feels better because there is more weight to the lore, more conflict behind the decisions, and no quest designers patting me on the head and reassuring me that I’m doing the right thing all the time. That might be what some folks like, but not me.

Fast Track Pet Leveling, an Updated Guide

Most of you may have noticed that my previous pet leveling guide is painfully outdated so it’s time for me to fix that.

Please keep in mind that this guide only works if you have at least 2 level 25 pets already. If you do not yet have a level 25 pet you are going to have to level them the old fashioned way in each level specific zone until they hit max level.

There are a bunch of fast exp pet leveling guides out there at this point so remember that my method isn’t the only option for you if you don’t like it. This method works fantastically for me and it’s the reason I’ve been able to get so many of my pets to 25. My old method required a lot of luck but this method is pretty much bad-luck proof so if you’re one of those with RNG issues like I am, this is a foolproof guide.

To start with, you’re going to want to head to the area in your main city that has level 1 pets and a stablemaster. The perfect place in Stormwind is the area near the SI:7 barracks:

SWm

This is the area with the training dummies. It usually has 3-4 level 1 rats or squirrels up with a stablemaster nearby. I’d recommend that you pick our 2 or 3 pets you’re interested in powerleveling so you can get them all leveled here in one trip. This time, I chose my mini-mindslayer.

lvl1

The fast kill and respawn time of the mobs in the area pretty much guarantees that you can get a level 1 pet to level 5 in less than 5 minutes. You shouldn’t need to use the stablemaster at all as the combat regen and leveling will keep your pet healthy the whole time.

After a few short minutes your pets should all be level 5.

level5

Now it’s time to move back to Pandaria. Set up your party with your level 5 in the front and the two 25s in the other slots to keep it company. Where you go in Pandaria to level next is up to you. Some people prefer leveling in the vale near the faction cities. I usually prefer going to the valley of the four winds because the pets there hit like limp noodles. Granted, they’re more annoying with their survival moves but it still takes less than a minute to beat them.

You will want to avoid areas that have pets that use moves like grasp or web that make it so that you are unable to swap pets. Off the top of my head the turtles on Jade forest cast this, as do the turtles in valley and the spiders in Krasarang.

Fly to your leveling location of choice with your level 5 at the front of your party. Engage an enemy pet and make sure your leveling pet gets a move off. It does not need to be a damaging move, it just needs to do SOMETHING in the first round in order to get credit in the fight and earn exp. At level 5 your pet should be able to survive hits from even a level 25 enemy.

Once your pet has attacked, swap one of your level 25s in.

swap

Now use your 25 to KO the rest of the enemy party. You DO NOT need to let the level 25 pets die as now they no longer soak exp. (This was changed in 5.1.) Once your level 25 kills off the other pets, your low level pet should get ALL the exp from that battle, even from the back row. (As long as it attacked at least once.)

You will want to do this until your pet hits level 10:

lvl10

Which should only take 2 or 3 battles and no time at all.

At this point you have two options. You can continue to use this method to level on wild pets. The benefit of this is that you have a chance of getting battlestones, charms (in 5.2) and various other things. But it’s a little slower. If you have multiple 25s there is another option available.

With multiple 25s and a good team comp you can use the same strategy as above to level your pet on tamer battles. For the purposes of this guide I’m going to use Tamer Nishi as an example as she’s currently the easiest max level tamer to level your pets on.

Again, keep your low level at the head of your party and engage Nishi in a battle. Make sure your pet attacks at least once.

nishifight

At level 10 any pet should easily be able to survive an attack from an enemy master tamer’s pets. Once your lowbie has attacked, swap it out for a level 25 pet that you’re confident can easily kill off two or more of the enemy tamer’s pets.

nishiswap

Kill off the tamer’s pets and enjoy that sweet, sweet exp.

lvlup

In the span of less than a half an hour I was easily able to get my pet from level 1 to level 15. Making a circuit around the Pandaria tamers would ensure that it would be level 25 by the time I fought maybe 2 or 3 more.

lvl15

If you’ve used my method you can level a bunch of pets to level 5, then to level 10, then have them ready each day to quickly powerlevel them off the tamers to 25. I usually do this in waves, which is why my pet journal is full of level 10 pets waiting to be taken to level 25.

And like I’ve said – the benefit of this method is that it is not RNG dependent at all. You don’t need good luck on move combos to steadily level your pets. There are faster methods out there, but this is the one I’ve found works best for me. Hopefully it works for others as well!

Put Down That Pedestal Please!

Have you, perchance, heard the term “fake gamer girl” recently? I imagine you have, since it’s all over the interbutts at large. It’s especially prevalent in WoW where the stereotype of bloodsucking lady widow spiders joining guilds for the sole purpose of loots and breaking the officers apart is a favorite topic on the forums.

At this point I am going to explain something and it may make some folks mad, it may change some people’s opinion of me, and it may make others uncomfortable. But I have to do this for myself as both a woman and a gamer. I cannot expect things to get better unless I actually do stand up and point this out.

There is a concept in feminism and psychology called the Madonna-whore complex. To sum it up in non-Freudian terms, it basically means that women are seen one of two ways: Wholesome Madonnas who are to be worshiped and valued; Or whores that are to be used and looked down upon. As a society we have made great strides to move away from this complex. In gaming circles, however, we are woefully behind the times as it’s still ALL over the place.

The gaming community is one that prides itself on supposed inclusiveness. How many of us were bullied in school and claim that has made us stronger? More inclusive? Less apt to judge? Ask yourself – is that really true? IS the gaming community more inclusive?

Gaming culture tends to fall into a trapping cycle when it comes to dealing with lady gamers. Men get tingly in their pants when they see an attractive woman that happens to enjoy killing demons on the PC. Why wouldn’t they? The very nature of sexual attraction is attractiveness + personality = I want to bump uglies with you.

Meanwhile, the women who are not attractive or who may not flaunt their appearance get filed away in the “seldom thought about” folder. They’re just a gamer like everybody else. Gosh, doesn’t this sound just like high school? But I thought we’d moved away from that!

Here it is – the much storied “pedestal” I refer to in my title. Though I have mainly been addressing the situation with lady gamers in this article, the pedestal applies to both genders. So men, I am not attacking you. This issue goes both ways it’s just more prone to happening with ladies.

So these people that may not do much besides look nice and sometimes pick up a video game controller get turned into the Madonnas and set very high atop this nerd pedestal where they can no longer be reached by the regular mortal! People clamor for attention from these Gods/Goddesses! And when they don’t get it – that love and admiration turns sour. To bitterness and resentment.

Suddenly these pedestal deities are assholes! They know nothing about their fanbase! Also, they actually hardly play video games or contribute to the gaming community at all! Those..those..FAKE GAMERS! How dare they!

But whose fault is that? They haven’t changed anything about themselves. I’ll tell you who is at fault – the people that put them on that pedestal. If you create unrealistic expectations for someone and they fail to meet them, why are you surprised?

If you are worshiping someone purely for their looks and the fact that maybe one time they streamed a world of warcraft arena match, why are you surprised when there is no other substance deeper below the surface? You, as a player, may visit numerous WoW related blogs and sites daily. WoWhead, WoWinsider, MMO Champion, etc. And you check those sites for information and strategies without considering who may be behind the screen putting them up.

You check someone else’s livestream for pure eyecandy. And you’re surprised if they’re not getting into the finer points of rogue PVP theorycrafting? Why are you surprised? Why are you ANGRY?

Now let’s bring this vicious cycle back around to how it effects lady gamers. You have two ladies in your guild at the moment, okay? For the purposes of this anecdote. One is a girl who has maybe talked a few times on mumble but otherwise keeps to herself. The other is a boisterous woman who loves showing pictures of herself and flirting. Both of these women play on about the same level.

WAIT. You think you know where I’m going with this? Do you assume I’m going to say, “Yeah the one who flaunts pics is a bitch/whore who is probably going to trade nudes to the officers for loot amirite?”

That right there? That’s sexism. That’s the trap. Did you fall for it? Which one of those women would you assume was being treated like the Madonna while the other was treated like the whore? In this case the Madonna aspect can be roughly translated to being “one of the guys.” as some folks like to put it.

Neither one of these women are doing anything wrong because they do not exist in the guild for the pleasure of the male guildmates. They exist solely as people with their own personalities and whether or not their personalities effect anything has to do with the OTHER people around them. One is quiet, one is more social. Who gives a rat’s ass if the important thing is whether or not they play well and you enjoy their company.

Shitty, manipulative people exist. This is a fact. But it has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with that person. The reason stories about thieving ladies ripping off guild banks are popular is because they’re scandalous. They allow people to have something to commiserate over.

Now here comes the pedestal again. Do you see it? We’re coming full circle. Women who get caught in these scandals get so much focus because of the magical pedestal. “Wow that girl was so attractive and sneaky I’m not surprised this happened!” Why are you not surprised? Because she was a shitty person or because she was a WoW player with ladyparts you wanted to touch and as such you placed her in high regard for no other reason besides that and when that backfired and the pedestal came crumbling down you were UPSET?! *inhales deep breath after run on sentence*

This is a constant cycle in the gaming world. It’s absolutely everywhere. It’s the reason the fake gamer girl meme exists, it’s the reason so many HAWHAW GET IN THE KITCHEN memes exist. This is the root of the issue. Let’s all start trying to identify it and stop putting people on pedestals and maybe, JUST MAYBE things will start to get better for everyone.

At the very least as WoW players can we please start trying to move away from this? There is no reason to go gaga over someone because they are generally attractive and play a video game. These are superficial reasons, at best, and if you start looking deeper at people you will start to build deeper connections. This means that your connections will be better placed and you’ll be less likely to feel that sting of disappointment when someone doesn’t turn out to be what you expected them to be.

Whew. Okay. That felt good to get out. Sorry it’s so off topic from what I usually post but hey.

Pet Battle Dailies – Issues and a Possible Solution

There’s an interesting feedback thread going on over on the official pet battle forums:

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/7763317411

It would seem that most of the folks, myself included, who started out really hardcore into the pet battling system have slowly lost interest. It’s not because the system isn’t fun. If it wasn’t fun we wouldn’t have spent time leveling 30-75 pets to 25. Even now I will be sitting at my desk and think, “Y’know what would be fun to level? My broom.” and then I get really excited thinking about it.

The issue is that in an effort to get people back out into the world, they opted to place the main burden of that on the pet battle tamers. The pet battle tamers that offer the daily battle quests are spread throughout Pandaria, Outland, Northrend, EK, and Kalimdor. The pandaria master tamers are the closest together but even still take quite a bit of time to get to and battle in order to receive the daily bags which only offer a small chance of getting anything that isn’t a gross hairball or bandage.

But I digress – there’s nothing wrong with the drop rates in the bags. Rather it’s the time investment of getting to all the tamers. At the point where a person is battling the Pandaria tamers on a regular basis, they likely already have multiple 25s and are mainly farming for extra exp or battlestones. We’re not really doing it to “be out in the world.”

After all, there’s a reason all other dailies exist in quest hubs. It’s to make doing all the daily quests a speedy and more enjoyable experience. Compared to regular dailies, the pet battle dailies are about as non-required as you can get. This works for and against them because on the one hand, if you can’t spend an hour flying all over the world to battle the tamers every day – no big deal. But on the other hand, it takes an hour flying all over the world to do all the dailies. That’s not cool.

When you’re a regular player that has to do other dailies, prep for a raid, level alts, or do dungeons or whatever else – those pet battle dailies move further and further down the totem pole until they disappear if a person doesn’t have time for them. There’s also the fact that increased tedium tends to = more boredom.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can only really speak for myself in this case. There’s nothing wrong with the tamers as they are now from the point of view of someone who is going through the initial pet battle questline/achievements. It’s fun to fly out to Outlands and battle all the spread out tamers out there because it’s new and exciting! But as time goes on and you start doing it daily, it’s less new and exciting and more “uggh these flights aren’t even long enough to AFK on.”

So I have an idea! I don’t think they should change any of the Pandaria or old content tamers because they work well where they are, even if the dailies aren’t as accessible. But I think that in a future patch they should add a small hub of maybe 4-5 master tamers that each offer a daily quest. This way the older, spread out tamers are still available for people who like that style of doing the dailies and it also adds an option for people who would like to continue doing some dailies but at a more convenient pace. It’s win-win for both sides because the options are still available for people whether they prefer one style over the other. People who like the travel can get that done and still have more content available in these new tamers and vice versa.

I’ve made jokes on my twitter about a league of shadowy pet tamers, but I think that would apply perfectly here. Once you beat the legendary elite pets that are coming in 5.2, you get an invitation in your character’s mail. You go to a designated, non-faction specific place (in a perfect world, for me, it would be the basement of Karazhan.) and meet with the league. Obviously the first objective would be to beat all of them in static pet battles, the same way you have to beat all the current tamers to unlock the dailies. Once beaten they’d start offering the usual daily quests with the bag reward.

The other idea I’d like to see applied would be for these tamers to switch their pets up daily. But I’d want all of them to have all 3 of the pets on display so people can see what they’re up against before they start the battle. So one day you face the shadowy worgen tamer with her eye of the legion, ghostly skull, and scourged whelpling pet and then the next day she has an enchanted broom, corehound pup, and crawling claw combo instead. This helps keep things somewhat fresh since these tamers would all be within a close distance to each other.

As it gets later into this expansion I don’t see why a daily hub for pet battles would be a bad thing. There’s a certain expectation that as time goes on, more people get into and then subsequently out of pet battles. It’s a lot like the way, towards the end of an expansion, gear becomes more easily acquirable to keep people’s interest. And since the daily bags have such a low drop rate for anything decent, I think being able to access 3 or 4 of them with only a 20 minute investment isn’t that bad.

So uh, yeah. I rarely blog about game ideas that I have because I feel like it makes me look like a silly fangirl. But I figured I’d take the plunge and post it here. I highly doubt anything would come of it, but hey, maybe someday~~~~

petleague

Pet Battles: An Intermediate Guide

Hello again! It’s been a while, right? Sorry about that!

Unfortunately due to the nature of MMOs my beginner’s guide is slightly outdated right now, but I’m planning on making a post about all the changes that have gone into the game with the latest patch and potential future patches.

So by now I hope that most of you have gotten your feet wet with the pet battle system. Maybe you have 3 or 4 level 25 pets by now and faced off against some of the PVE tamers or even attempted some PVP battling. Good!

Before I get into it I’m going to briefly discuss some of the changes that have gone live with the latest patch:

1) Flawless battlestones can be found either in the tamer daily bags or off of random wild pet battles. As a disclaimer, I’ve gotten maybe 2 battlestones out of wild pet battles. The large majority of mine have come from tamers. These stones can be used to increase the rarity of a pet in a certain family to rare. Arguably these stones are best spent on pets like the creepy crate, etc. that you cannot find in the wild as a rare.

2) Leveling is much better now as you do not need to KO your level 25 pets to funnel exp to the lower level pet. Simply make sure your low level pet does a single attack and swap it out with a level 25 and that low level pet will still receive all the exp. This has made leveling multiple pets exponentially easier both from farming pets in the wild and doing the tamer dailies.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the guide!

1) Pet Stats and You

2) Choosing The Right Pet

3) Leveling Against Tamers

4) PVP Pet Battles

————–

1) Pet Stats and You

petbattlestats

So you know the basics of speed, health, and attack at this point. I won’t be getting into breed IDs in this guide since that deserves an entire post of its own. Regardless, certain stats factor into move builds and can make some pets more effective.

A high health pet is a great thing when you’re running a defensive pet like a turtle. A turtle with high health, shell shield or healing wave can usually outlast more annoying enemies like the clockwork gnome. The tradeoff for having a high health defensive pet is that you sacrifice some offense for the sake of staying alive longer.

At the same time, a good defense can be a great thing against pets that have damage over time moves like poisonous spiders. Shell shield can completely negate the effects of some poison and webbing moves while slowly whittling down the enemy’s HP.

The downside to a defensive pet is that if your opponent is running a more offensive build you’re left without much to do besides brace yourself and wait to be KOed. But every stat has its uses, and so does every build. That’s the beauty of pet battles!

In most cases you’re going to run into pets that are strong in two stats rather than just one as well. So you may be able to find turtles that have both high health and decent speed, which helps when coupled with a move like powerball.

The attack stat is about as basic as it comes. The higher it is, the more damage you do with direct attacks and damage over time effects. There are a lot of buffing/debuffing moves that help/hinder attack moves as well. For example:

Lil’Deathwing has the roll attack, which increases attack by 25% for 3 turns. There’s a trick to stacking your attack effects to go along with your hard hitting moves. For example, I usually use Lil’D’s elementium bolt attack followed immediately by his roll attack. As long as that 25% attack buff is in effect when the bolt lands, it deals the extra damage. It makes a move that usually does about 700 damage do 900. This trick also works on pets like Mr. Bigglesworth and its prowl/ice tomb combo.

If you are running a pure offensive pet group then managing your attack buffs is key. There’s no sense in running a pet that has a ton of attack and a buffing move without using it properly. Your goal is to knock opponents out before they knock you out, so manage your cooldowns effectively! Offensive pets rarely have much in the way of stats like speed or health. They are true glass cannons so if your opponent gets one up on you, you’re probably going to lose quickly.

Now, speedy pets are an interesting lot. Some of you may have already noticed that the round mechanics in WoW’s pet battles are…erm…wonky. If you have a high speed pet you have an ENORMOUS advantage in battles. This is key to what makes flying pets and their default speed buff so useful!

Speedier pets will -always- go first in battles. (Unless the opponent has a move like surge which automatically attacks first in a round.) What this means is that their moves like lift-off, dive, burrow, etc. will negate the opponent’s move on that turn immediately. If you have a fast pet with an evasion move and you know something like elementium bolt or ice tomb is about to hit you, if you use your move at the start of the turn it will miss. If your opponent goes first, it will hit you and THEN your lift off move will go off, wasting the defensive capabilities.

There’s also the case of moves like survival. If your pet goes first, the survival move will go into effect for that turn AND the next turn. The reason for this is because the turn you cast the move (as long as you go first) does not count as the round it’s in effect. The next round does. This only works for pets when they are faster. So it goes like this:

Turn 1:

-Faster pet uses survival. It goes into effect immediately.

-Slower pet attacks. Survival negates damage.

Turn 2:

-Faster pet attacks. Survival is still in effect as this is the official “round” it is supposed to be working.

-Slower pet attacks. Survival negates damage again.

Once that second turn is over, survival finally wears off.

I don’t know if this is supposed to be happening, but it’s been like this with speedy pets ever since pet battles were launched. I think it’s a safe bet that it’s probably meant to be a benefit for speedy pets since outside of going first in a round there really were no other benefits to having a faster pet.

2) Choosing The Right Pet

choosingapet

Lately I’ve had a lot of people asking, “Yo Alona, what’s the best pet to use? Or what’s the most unbeatable pet team?”

The answer? There isn’t one. Most pets have their uses, and because of that there is no perfect pet team. When it comes to countering certain pets in PVP or with the master tamers, there are certainly pets that work better than others. But if you’re looking for a single pet or team that can beat everything all the time, you’re not going to find it.

Choosing the right pet to level is almost entirely up to you. The first step is to look at the pet’s stats. You can usually tell, even at level 1, what the pet will be strong in. If its HP is higher than other pets, it’s probably going to be a good soaker. If its attack stat is 1 higher than the others, it’s probably an attack pet, etc.

Some pets are almost completely balanced in all 3 stats. This means that they’re never lacking in one stat, but they don’t necessarily stand out. I personally prefer pets with skewed stats like speedy mechanical dragonlings or powerhouse whelplings. But again, this is up to the you.

The second thing you want to look at is the pet’s movepool. What, specifically, are you looking to get out of the pet? Are you looking for something like an eternal strider that has mainly powerhouse aquatic moves? Or are you looking for something like a corehound pup that has a variety of different moves?

Both of these pets have their uses. The strider is amazing in PVE against tamers because it’s so strong against elemental pets with its pure aquatic moveset. The pandaren spirit tamers in particular all have at least one elemental pet on their team. Meanwhile the corehound pup has a varied movepool with two dodge moves and only one attack that matches its elemental type.

It could be argued that one is better for PVE and the other is better for PVP, but that’s not necessarily the case. If I were going into a PVP match I would be more likely to bring the corehound because of its movepool though, because I’m not sure who I’d be up against and dodges are effective against almost everything.

Some pets have movepools that make me just scratch my head. The moonkin hatchling is a good example. I can understand that it’s themed around moonkins in the game, but its stun is pretty much the only good move in its set. But without a faster speed stat, it’s pretty much useless anyway. Usually when a pet has a bad moveset you’ll be able to tell because there’s no synergy between the attacks. The moonkin for example has moonfire, which causes the moonlight weather effect. Meanwhile it also has solar beam, which is effected by the sunlight weather effect. No synergy at all.

If you see something like that, go with your gut and stay away.

It really helps if you go down the list of your available pets in your pet journal and take a good long look at their moveset. Some pets, like the gilnean raven, have interesting one off abilities like nevermore. You never know what kinds of cool moves/combos you can find until you really take a good look.

3) Leveling Against Tamers

tamers

By now you should have a few level 25 pets to your name. It’s time to get into more advanced leveling tactics. Once you beat all the tamers on a continent, you’ll unlock the daily quests for that area. This means that every day you can go back and battle the tamers. Tamers give more exp per battle, but you’ll need to be cautious because if you’re bringing a leveling pet, you’re essentially running with a man down on your team.

A good example of how to level against a tamer is to fight Farmer Nishi. She is arguably the easiest master tamer in the game. She runs with two elemental pets and a beast pet, so I usually go in with the following pet team:

Level 25 eternal strider, level 25 lil’Deathwing (you can substitute any hard hitting pet here, honestly.) and my low level pet.

I’ll start with the low level pet out against either of the elementals and use an attack. Once it goes off, I immediately switch to the strider and KO both elementals. Usually her brood of mothran pet KOs my strider, so I send out my lil’D to finish it off. Voila, 9-5k exp immediately for your low level pet.

The same strategies can be followed for the other pet tamers. Generally as long as you have a pet or two that are strong against the opponent’s pets, you can get by with only having 2 level 25 pets fighting. A single round of daily quests against the tamers can easily push one, or even two pets (depending on their starting level) to 25. The ONLY tamer I’d recommend not doing this with is the Pandaren Earth Spirit. Even with 3 level 25 pets it can be a tricky opponent with all its stuns.

4) PVP Pet Battles

PVPbattles

Hoboy. Are you sure you want to do PVP battles? Yes? O..okay.

PVP battles in WoW can be a bit of a dice roll. Having only 3 pets to choose from in a fight means you’re going to run into teams that you can beat no problem, or teams that will wipe the floor with you. Using some creativity when it comes to movepools will help immensely but there’s still some luck involved. Currently if you go up against a team of a Fluxfire Feline, Mr.Bigglesworth, and Kun-lai runt, you may as well curl into a ball and weep. But who knows how it’ll be in future patches.

PVP battles at level 25 are where you’re going to run into the people who really know how to play. Most of them know exactly what they’re doing and chose their teams carefully. If you want to win, you’d better do the same.

The best rules to follow in PVP battles are the same rules that apply to dodgeball. Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge. If you aren’t taking damage, you’re that much closer to winning. Moves like burrow, dive, and lift-off can be huge boons if you are making the most of them. The biggest trump card in PVP battles right now is the reflection move. Reflection is a boon because no matter the speed of your pet, it activates first in the round.

Some of the more common pets you’ll run into in PVP battles are:

Clockwork gnomes – easily countered with a water waveling or other elemental pet. Any pet that has a shield move will negate its turret damage. Meanwhile a lot of pets have moves like tidal wave that will remove all objects from the battlefield. Given how dependent a lot of people in PVP battles are on mechanical pets, having a good elemental in your party at almost all times is usually a good idea.

Flayer Younglings – A decent undead pet like a blighthawk or ghostly skull will make quick work of one of these things. The key is to manage reflection properly. If you can feign and make them waste their reflection, you’ve won.

Any kind of crab at all – The best defense against these is a strong offense. Use any powerhouse pet and they won’t live long enough to heal.

Right now people are big on using Fluxfire Felines and Mr. Bigglesworths but IMHO they’ll be nerfed in future patches to make them less of a crutch for people who can’t make powerhouse teams without 1-shot KO moves so there’s no point in addressing them.

Kun-lai runts – A somewhat fast undead pet is a good bet with this. Again, see blighthawk or ghostly skull above. If the user gets lucky with the stun on deep freeze, try to work around it. You’re probably only going to run into people who run a frost shock/deep freeze/takedown  build. Just smack them with a curse of agony/doom and move on with your day.

The key to PVP battles is remembering that sometimes your team can’t counter the one lady luck put you up against. Just accept the defeat and move on. There are some points where you may get the same opponent multiple times in a row. If you want to adjust your team, do so. If you’re frustrated about the matching system, just wait an hour or so and try again when more people are in the queue.

Whew. Okay. That’s a lot more information for you battlers to digest! Hopefully this guide is useful to folks.

Also, I hate to put this here but if you want to use my guide/images from my guide elsewhere – I’m okay with it as long as I’m credited. I feel like this should go without saying but I’ve seen some things that look startlingly familiar to the images I put in my last guide popping up around the net. Not that I care that much, but a little link to the source would be rad. :)